Recently divorced and retired, Neil moves to a new house that needs a great deal of work to make it truly a home. When Marshall, his neighbor, offers a helping hand, a friendship develops between them, aided by Marshall's two dogs and Neil's stray cat.
That Marshall is gay and thinks Neil is straight could keep them just friends, despite Marshall's developing interest in Neil.
Then a shocking discovery beneath a trapdoor, and Pattie, a sweet, meddling neighbor, change everything. As they try to solve the mystery of the bones, the question becomes, can Pattie convince Neil to reveal his growing feelings for Marshall? Or will he deny them and lose Marshall in the process?
There was a small set of shelves along one wall of the studio that held several of Marshall's sculptures. Neil immediately gravitated to them. One especially caught his attention. Again, like the one of the man he'd purchased, it was quite surreal. In this case it was two men, bodies entwined in what appeared to be a passionate kiss.
"This one is wonderful," he said softly, running a finger along the delicately curved line of one man's back.
"Thank you. It's the one I was working on. I finished it earlier today."
"You're very talented." Neil grimaced. "That sounded a bit condescending didn't it?"
Marshall smiled. "No, it sounded as if you meant it -- and like what I do."
Neil studied the other works as well but his gaze kept returning to the two entwined men. He sensed Marshall come up beside him and turned his way.
"If you really like it, it's yours."
"I do, but I couldn't. It should be in some gallery or --" he smiled at Marshall, "-- in a museum even."
Marshall cocked one eyebrow. "It's hardly museum quality. Besides, can you see a parent trying to explain to their kids why two men are kissing?"
"In this day and age, I don't think that would be a problem. When we were kids, maybe, but not now."
Moving away, Marshall sat on the stool beside his work table, gazing at Neil without saying a word.
Neil began to get nervous under the intensity of his stare. "What?" he asked finally.
"I'm trying to figure you out."
"You're a middle-aged, straight guy who was probably -- and this is just presumption -- raised in a nice middle-class community where being gay was looked on as something strange and fairly intolerable. Then you got married after what? High-school or college?"
"I was twenty-six, actually, with a new wife I thought I loved and a new business I knew I did."
"So between college and then you learned the ropes during the day so you could start your business and played hard at night searching for the perfect mate."
Neil shook his head, trying not to laugh. "You are full of presumptions, most of them wrong. I was raised by my mother and my grandparents since my father pulled a vanishing act soon after I was born. That was in New York, the city, not the state, so I was well aware of the gay movement in the seventies."
"When you were what ...?" Marshall paused for a second. "Ten to fifteen years old?"
"I was ten in seventy-four, fifteen in seventy-nine." Neil frowned, remembering. "By the time the AIDS epidemic began, I was eighteen and scared."
"Of what? Straight boys didn't ... get AIDS ..." Marshall's eyes widened. "You're trying to tell me you're gay?"
"No." Neil smiled slightly. "Bi, though it's been forever since I've been with a man."
"I don't believe you," Marshall said with a trace of anger, although his expression said otherwise as he looked ... hopeful was Neil's take on it.
"About which, that it's been forever or that I'm bi?"
"That you're bi. You don't act ... Okay, that would be a very bad thing to say."
Neil barely smiled as he said, "Oh yeah, definitely. And you're hardly one to talk on that score. The young woman at the gallery has a thing for you for starters, so you definitely come off as straight as I do, at least to some people."
"I know," Marshall shot back. "But at least I don't hide what I am when it counts, the way you do."
"You're not hiding it from her?"
"She knows. She just ... hopes?"
"And you do nothing to discourage her."
"That's not true, damn it. And how did I suddenly become the bad guy here? I was up front with you, which is more than I can say about you when it came to me."
"I suppose. But then I had no reason to be. We barely know each other."
"And as far as you're concerned, you'd like it to stay that way."
Neil lifted an eyebrow. "Did I say that?"
"No." Marshall sighed. "Look, I'm sorry. I should never have pushed the issue in the first place. It's obvious it makes you uneasy."
Neil closed his eyes for a moment, trying to decide what he could say in reply that would make sense.